The MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine is safe for children, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Public Health Laboratory Servic (PHLS) in Britain say the MMR vaccine is not linked to increased rates of autism or bowel disease.

They also say fears that the vaccine can overload a child's immune system are unfounded.

The Canadian Pediatric Society announced in June 2001 there was no evidence MMR was a health risk for children and that it was safe to give. Their statement is backed by the World Health Organization.

Some parents fear the vaccine can cause developmental problems or make their children more susceptible to other infections. They've started giving their children three separate innoculations instead of one MMR jab.

To test that theory, researchers looked at serious bacterial infections such as septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis among one to two-year-olds.

They discovered:

  • 116 had an invasive bacterial infection
  • 279 had pneumonia

They looked to see if children were more likely to develop an infection in the three months after being given the MMR injection. There was no increased risk.

Head researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Miller, says parents should not be concerned about the MMR all-in-one vaccine.

"It's certainly no reason at all to consider having separate vaccines."

The results are published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.